Cool under pressure

Bestobell LNG is a British manufacturer of cryogenic valves for the LNG industry. It has more than 50 years of history in cryogenic valve manufacture, with the roots of the company extending back even further to 1857, and has been involved with the marine LNG sector since 2000. Its manufacturing base and offices are based in Sheffield but the company has achieved worldwide distribution through a network of agents located throughout 21 countries, subsequently making it one of the most recognised names within this niche industry. Until October 2010 the company was part of valve specialists Flow Group, but became part of President Engineering Group when a local management team purchased it along with dust and fire suppression equipment producer Conflow.

Bestobell’s products can be broadly divided by application into three categories: land-based, industrial, and marine. Though each has different end uses, two unique design features unify them. Sales director Duncan Gaskin elaborates: “First, our valves use something called an independent flange and top bonnet arrangement. When a cryogenic valve cools to -165 degrees Celsius or lower, the metal is obviously going to contract; when it begins to warm again the metal will expand. This goes on over the valves lifetime. The biggest issue facing cryogenic valves is gas leakage into the atmosphere, and the main route of doing that is through the gasket that sits between the valve’s body and top flanges. A traditional bonnet and flange would be connected as a single piece and loses downwards force onto the gasket as it cools. By having two separate items it allows the metals to cool down independently and the downward force on to the gasket can be maintained though the release of strain from securing bolts. In addition to this, one-piece bonnet and flanges can suffer from cracking due to the cool down strain that can build up in welded areas.

“The second feature of Bestobell valves is the disc, which seals against the seat of the unit to control the flow of LNG. We use a floating disc arrangement that allows the disc to rotate and move independently from the stem. The key reason for doing this is that when the disc comes into contact with the seat, the disc stops rotating and any further force applied is simply used to close the valve, pushing the disc smoothly into the seat for a very tight fit, and ensuring zero leakage. If the disc is not free to rotate, the force used to close the valve would simply wear the seat and disc material, as is the case with many valves on the market today.”

To date, Bestobell LNG has fitted over 25,000 individual products on to more than 140 ships including LNG carriers, floating storage and regasification units (FSRUs), and more recently vessels that use LNG as a fuel source. Given the relatively small stature of the maritime LNG market at present, it is one of the biggest reference lists that can be boasted. Each project was chosen as a result of Bestobell’s reputation for quality and reliability that outshines that of many other manufacturers in the sector. Presently the factory is handling more than 50 different projects, going through to mid-2014, and highlighting the degree of activity the company experiences.

Bestobell has received several notable projects throughout 2012. Perhaps the most important of these was an order placed by Hudong Shipyard in Shanghai, the only yard so far in China to build LNG carriers, for four vessels owned by MOL and to be chartered by ExxonMobil. It is the company’s first major sale to China, a market where it recently established a distribution agent and one that will prove incredibly important to future business. The world’s first newbuild FSRU projects, one for Excelerate Energy, which is being constructed by DSME, and Höegh’s series of vessels being built by Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), will both carry Bestobell cryogenic valves.

What marks Bestobell out from many other companies manufacturing LNG cryogenic valves is its understanding of the market. Its entire range meets the class requirements set out for fitting aboard ships, many of which differ greatly from land-based and industrial applications. Onboard valves, for example, must be made entirely from metal with no soft materials such as rubber (or other polymers) due to the potentially lethal results of it degrading during a fire. Instead the minor soft parts of a unit are made from graphite, which is unaffected by temperature. All its valves meet stringent IMO regulations too, which can often be difficult obstacles to overcome for a manufacturer not used to maritime legislation. “At the moment we literally have surveyors in our plant every week carrying out FATs on valve sets going out to different new build projects,” Duncan says.

As 2012 comes to an end, Duncan looks forward to what the next few months and years hold: “About 60 newbuild LNG vessels were ordered in 2011 and a further 25 orders have been placed so far this year including for the first time for FSRU and FLNG. It is the one newbuild sector that is really booming and we are keen to remain at the forefront of it. Our break into the Chinese market was very important for us because it will be a big player in LNG construction over the next ten years. We have also just begun supplying our first units for LNG fuel systems, working with a number of companies that supply the tanks and pipework to produce bespoke solutions. The LNG fuel sector is an area we are now focusing on as we believe it is going to grow rapidly over the next five to ten years.

“Looking even further ahead, the next 30 years will see international energy infrastructures changing to operate on LNG. Countries will convert their economies, to use LNG as a primary fuel source. The 19th century saw the rise of coal; the 20th century saw the rise of oil; and the 21st century will see the rise of gas. It is predicted than by 2035 gas consumption will be as high as oil and the corresponding increase in production, shipping and storage of LNG will create a sustained demand for cryogenic valves. Bestobell’s products are well designed and have a great reputation so we believe the sector is going to a be a real success story for Bestobell.”

Bestobell LNG
Products on cutting edge vessels
Unique valve design
Strong future market